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Ipswich/Suffolk Coastal: Prolific thief jailed after stealing Suffolk MP Therese Coffey’s bag during church service

PUBLISHED: 09:12 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 09:12 14 March 2014

Patrick OHara

Patrick OHara

A prolific thief is back behind bars after stealing Suffolk MP Therese Coffey’s handbag during an Ipswich church service.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey.Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey.

Patrick O’Hara, who has more than 120 offences to his name, took the Suffolk Coastal MP’s black leather Radley bag at St Pancras Roman Catholic church in Tacket Street.

The handbag contained an ipad 2 in an aluminium case, a brown Radley wallet with cards and £40 in cash.

The total value of the items stolen came to £600.

The theft occurred between 6.15pm and 6.45pm during a mass on December 8.

O’Hara, who was living in Cromwell Square, Ipswich at the time, originally denied the charge.

However, two days before his trial the 35-year-old pleaded guilty to theft when he appeared before South East Suffolk Magistrates Court for other matters.

Police were called following the theft and spoke to members of the church who pointed out the suspect on in-house CCTV.

Ms Coffey’s handbag was found in bushes in by the NCP car park in Rosemary Lane, which runs between Lower Brook Street and Foundation Street.

Officers recognised O’Hara from the CCTV and arrested him.

However, he originally denied being the person on the images.

O’Hara was released pending further enquiries. When he answered bail on December 13 he was charged with theft and appeared before Ipswich magistrates on December 14.

Although the court gave him bail, the following day he returned to St Pancras church to burgle it, taking a television and Blueray dvd player worth £500.

O’Hara denied stealing Ms Coffey’s handbag when he appeared before magistrates a few days later to admit the church break-in.

He was jailed for 14 weeks for burglary and for breaching a previous suspended sentence.

His trial for stealing Ms Coffey’s bag was scheduled for March 13.

However, three days earlier O’Hara, now of London Road, Ipswich, was arrested on other matters.

He was brought before the court on March 11.

O’Hara was jailed for a total of 16 weeks after being given a six-week jail term for stealing Ms Coffey’s handbag and further sentences totalling 10 weeks for two more thefts, criminal damage, and threatening behaviour – all of which he admitted.

After the case Ms Coffey said: ““Whilst it was distressing at the time I would like to praise the professionalism of Suffolk police for making an arrest so quickly and for securing a conviction. I have written to the Chief Constable thanking him.”

O’Hara had previously been jailed in January for drug driving after crashing a Peugeot 206 he had bought less than four hours earlier.

The crash occurred in Bealings Road, Martlesham in September last year.

Blood samples taken proved positive for a prescription drug he took for epilepsy.

Ipswich magistrates heard O’Hara was also hoping to get treatment for a pre-existing drug habit.

At the time the court was told O’Hara had 117 previous convictions.

He pleaded guilty to driving while unfit through a prescription drug, and using a vehicle without insurance or a licence.

O’Hara was given four weeks’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for four years.

His jail term was added to a 14-week sentence he received after burgling St Pancras church on December 15.

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